Porn is not sex positive

Students need to consider whether their porn consumption is ethical

It is discussed in hushed tones next to water coolers, and its cheesy music and dialogue is commonly parodied. Yet, according to some estimates, it is the content of 1 in 5 mobile searches, while other statistics assert that 12 percent of websites are pornographic. 

College students explore their newly found freedom to use this content in a culture where it is widely accepted and normalized. Pornography found a wildly thriving market in the digital age.

It is difficult to monitor porn consumption due to its private nature, and much of the research done is conducted by organizations lobbying against pornography. However, we do know porn is much more accessible and much more commonplace.

As products of the digital revolution college students have access to almost any kind of content at their fingertips — especially pornography. As a sex-positive generation, millennials seek to foster respect for everyone’s sexuality and their right to express it. 

Porn itself is not necessarily unhealthy or wrong. It has the potential to be a great tool to explore sexuality. What is wrong is the industry — it tends to exploit its workers and reinforce unhealthy sexual norms.

“Porn is not a ‘super stimulus,’” David Ley, Ph.D  and author of Ethical Porn for Dicks said. “The effects of porn are neither universal nor simple. Effects of porn use on relationships vary tremendously across different types of relationships.” 

Pornography is not a realistic depiction of sexuality; it is an idealized one. However, those who consume porn may see it as reality, especially those who have limited sexual experiences. This can construct unhealthy ideals about sex, especially considering the 17 percent of boys aged 10 to 11 years have had unwanted exposure to porn. 

For example, in pornographic scenes, consent is not a norm. Sexual advances are often made without consulting one's partner. This is not normal or healthy. 

Pornography portrays sex as some kind of performance. It is not organic or natural. The “sex” in these videos is systematic and formulaic. It is not a real depiction of real relationships or sexuality.

Viewers of these videos may consider these interactions normal and feel expected to perform this way as well. This can significantly damage relationships by limiting trust and real intimacy. 

Women orgasm through penetrative sex every time, birth control and protection are not even a consideration and women exist in heterosexual encounters only to please men. Viewers are given no background about these individuals, as if their sexuality defines them: These are the norms that pornography is setting. 

Pornography is often targeted toward men, as they are the largest consumer in this market. However, female viewership is often ignored. This is harmful to attitudes about women’s sexuality, suggesting that they cannot enjoy sex. 

The industry commodifies human beings. Its actors and actresses are often not considered to be individuals, but products — bodies, not beings. They are parts of a manufactured ideal of sex.

While it is natural and healthy to express and explore your sexuality, pornography is not the most sex-positive platform to use. There is nothing inherently wrong with pornography, but industry practices dehumanize workers and create unhealthy sexual attitudes.

“Porn can be ethical and sex positive. If we choose to demand that,” Ley said. “In the same way we can demand conflict-free diamonds and fair-trade coffee, we can demand ethical, positive, responsible pornography”

College students have the voice and the power to change these practices. As a large portion of the market in this industry, students possess the platform to make the industry sex positive and ethical.


Reach the columnist at sljorda4@asu.edu or follow @skyjordan4 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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